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Monday, August 29, 2011

Cool Ass Comics: Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian Edition!

With the new CONAN movie out I thought I'd showcase some of the grittier, more adult oriented covers from a handful of my surviving SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN THE BARBARIAN comic magazines as well as some from CONAN SAGA, a magazine that reprinted tales from both SAVAGE SWORD as well as the color comic CONAN THE BARBARIAN. This B/W comic mag was an amazing fantasy read for those who loved barbarians and artwork from the likes of Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta.

These publications also had wonderfully designed portraits book-ending the mag featuring everybody's favorite Cimmerian battling various enemies and beasts with a scantily clad, impossibly well built lovely just waiting to be rescued. Each magazine generally contained two tales of savagery with the co-feature not always about Conan. The cover at the top of the page is from issue #81 with the story 'The Palace of Pleasure' being one of the more misogynistic I've seen. It also features inks by the artist that got me into these books, Ernie Chan. Joe Chiodo did this surreal cover artwork.

Here is the very first SAVAGE SWORD I ever received. CONAN THE DESTROYER had just come out, and having been collecting the more kid friendly CONAN comic books, my attention turned to these far more gritty adaptations. Finally seeing the Cimmerian on the big screen got me hooked and after showing a curiosity for these mags upon seeing my first one in a barber shop, I had to have some of them. My mom would never buy them for me, though, till this issue from September, 1984. It's easily one of the goriest and sexiest issues I've ever come across. The issue also came under fire from some readers and non readers alike for the level of violence and bare flesh contained therein. 'Treachery of the Gray Wolf' is the lead story and again features the inks of Ernie Chan! Joe Jusko did this amazing cover.

SAVAGE SWORD #175 contains 'Blade of the Demon Slayer'. Conan finds the most mesmerizing blade he's ever seen and sets out to get it only the arcane blade is after him, too. Dorian designed this unusual cover. This issue also features a pin up gallery of Conan by Dave Simons.

Issue #176 contains a rousingly interesting tale entitled 'The Three Deaths of Conan' wherein our hero is captured by a wizard who delights in revealing to Conan various nasty ways in which to bring about the barbarians demise. Another pin up gallery is here, this time from James Fletcher. The striking cover is the work of Earl Norem.

'Fury of the Iron Damsels' headlines SAVAGE SWORD #179 and is of great interest in that it features Valeria stealing a coveted idol. Conan and Red Sonja set out after her to retrieve it. Along the way, Conan and co. run into the Iron Damsels, a gang of lady killers who swore vengeance on him as well as a gang of thieves who are also after the idol. Another Conan tale, 'What Dwells Below' closes out this issue. Earl Norem drew the cover.

Issue #192 features my all time favorite team of artists of this title--Roy Thomas, John Buscema and Ernie Chan! 'The Cape of Dark Dreams' is part three of 'The Skull on the Seas' story. Conan and the Khitai pirates are trapped on a dangerous island inhabited by reptilian men. Two other stories close out this issue--one of a young Kull and another of Red Sonja. The amazing cover was the work of Bob Larkin.

This 200th issue spectacular is jam packed with savage goodness and features that titanic trio of Thomas, Buscema and Chan! This bizarre tale is titled 'Barbarians of the Border' wherein the past mixes with the present as Conan shares pages with his creator, Robert E. Howard! A Short History of Conan and The Father of Conan are two features that close out this spectacular issue. Joe Jusko drew the kinetic cover.

This was my first issue of CONAN SAGA and sports a grand cover by Earl Norem taken from SAVAGE SWORD #24. The covers were chosen at random and seldom, if ever reflected the story within. Giant spiders and barbarians go hand in hand and this cover exemplifies that. 'The Haunters of Castle Crimson' is the lead story and is more horror oriented than most other Conan tales. It's adapted from Howard's 'The Slave Princess' story. A Solomon Kane story closes out the mag as well as the very first letter column for this reprint magazine.

For a time, Conan was known as 'Amra' after defeating another Amra, the Lord of the Lions, who had captured Conan's lover, the lovely pirate leader, Belit. In so doing, Conan also earned the respect of the faithful black lion, Sholo. Issue #38 covers Conan's days when he was possessing the 'Lion Spirit' and was referred to as Amra by everyone but Belit. This is the first of the four part Jhebbal Sag legacy. 'The Beast King of Abombi' is the title of the head tale. A lengthy and insightful Roy Thomas article is featured as well as a Conan/Red Sonja team up and a pin up gallery. Bob Larkin did the cover which was first seen in SAVAGE SWORD #27.

'Long Night of Fang and Talon' is part two of the Amra saga and features lots of action and monsters as well as seeing Conan traveling around with the loyal and fitfully powerful Sholo, the black lion. Both must rescue Belit from the dungeon of the mind controlling Beast King, Abombi. An early tale of King Kull follows it as well as a history of Kull. Ernie Chan did the exceptional cover art.

Issue #40 is part three of the action packed Amra saga, reprinted from SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #26 and covers several years from Conan's days on the Black Coast to the Pictish forests. A tale of young Conan follows it. Earl Norem designed the cool cover.

While I'm not crazy about this cover, it is the exciting conclusion to the Amra saga adapted from Howard's 'Beyond the Black River' series. Lots of action close out this epic storyline. Incidentally, no artist is credited with the cover and it's not one of the more attractive designs. A Solomon Kane story, 'Blades of the Brotherhood' closes out the issue.

And finally, this cover for CONAN SAGA #44, reprinted from SAVAGE SWORD #42, features the cover taken from SAVAGE SWORD #35. What's special about this one is that this was the very first SAVAGE SWORD I ever laid eyes on and it was in a barber shop. The gruesome Bob Larkin cover kept my mother from allowing me to skim through this magazine I instantly fell in love with. The main story here is 'The Devil Tree of Gamburu' adapted from Howard's 'Conan the Buccaneer' novel. Here, Conan battles amazons and man eating plants!



Luis said...

Great post! I loved Conan's black and white comics, the art in them was fantastic. In fact, I'm in the process of buying the reprints by Dark Horse that collect th entire run of Savage Sword. So far I'm up to Volume 3 which goes up to issue number 31.

venoms5 said...

Thanks, Luis! I agree, I love the B/W artistry of the magazines and pick up a few back issues when I can. I need more of the earlier ones. I like those covers the best. They have a dark quality about them that slowly dissipated as the series continued.

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